Financial Times: global action is needed to end the fighting in Libya

July 12, 2019


The FT editorial board: foreign meddling is fuelling a conflict in which there can be no victor

Some of those who have read the Financial Times for its news coverage for several years will have noticed a change of emphasis on issues of social justice since it was bought by the Nikkei. It has also withdrawn from the unjustifiable media onslaughts on the leader of the Labour Party.

Its call for global action to end the fighting in Libya is consistent with Japan’s security policy and Article 9 of its constitution.

Japan has closely monitored the use of its peacekeepers in South Sudan who were helping to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended the long civil war between northern and the southern Sudan.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports that the Government of Japan has now decided to revise the Implementation Plan for the International Peace Cooperation Assignments and extend its peace-keeping service there until 31 May 2020.

The Financial Times editorial opens with the news that a detention centre for African migrants in Tripoli (below) was hit by an air strike killing at least 55 people, including six children – the Cyprus Mail gives the numbers as 40 dead and 80 injured.

After trekking through the Sahel, African migrants are rounded up and held for an average of two years in inhumane conditions. Now they have become targets in the latest conflict to erupt in the oil-rich north African state.

The FT editorial: “foreign powers have played a duplicitous role”

Rival factions carved up the country into a ‘patchwork of fiefdoms’ following the western-backed toppling of Muammer Gaddafi in 2011.

While preaching peace and stability, regional powers supported rival sides. Qatar and Turkey have supported militias loyal to the Tripoli government, while Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have backed the self-styled Libyan National Army. More than 1,000 people have been killed since the offensive was launched.

Two days after the strike, which UN envoy said could be a war crime, the UN Security Council issued a statement condemning the attack — calling for a ceasefire. The editorial comments that the communiqué was apparently delayed by US foot dragging.

This detention centre for African migrants in Tripoli was hit by an air strike earlier this month, killing at least 55 people, including six children

The editorial reports that the main players have pursued rival interests that have hampered diplomatic efforts.

  • Italy, which worries about the flow of migrants, has favoured the UN-backed government,
  • France, which has courted Khalifa Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army and
  • Russia which has also backed Mr Haftar who controls eastern Libya.

It continues: “Washington, meanwhile, has delivered confused messages typical of the Trump administration’s incoherence on the Middle East. The State Department initially condemned the fighting, only for Donald Trump to call Mr Haftar and praise his ‘significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources’ “.

Weapons have been flooding in to all sides, in violation of a longstanding arms embargo. This, coupled with the inaction of the UN Security Council, has led to prolonged suffering for the war-weary population. The FT’s editorial board ends:

“World powers must put serious effort into securing a ceasefire and the UN Security Council needs to enforce the arms embargo. There should then be concerted action to restart a UN-led diplomatic process that would offer the best chance of bringing a semblance of stability. If no diplomatic process is launched, regional and international powers will be complicit in a proxy war that drives Libya towards deeper disintegration”.






Britain could transform its role in the world

June 25, 2019


The EWG-NLW shares three quarters of George MacPherson’s post-imperial nonlethal defence vision

George MacPherson, who served for three years in the RAF, sets the scene:

We live in a military society. British culture, prosperity, ceremony and government structure are built on conquest and annexation. Our empire, though, is over and we have to readjust . . .We are not against men and women in uniform – simply against the violence that is a small part of their existence. There are so many ‘better things to do’ that, in the long term, are less expensive.

  • Our politicians, influenced strongly by arms manufacturers, allow war while, personally, keeping away from any battlefield.
  • Every missile, mine, lethal drone, bullet and bomb exported supports our treasury and pension funds.
  • Our children are brought up to admire military exploits and stories of valour.
  • We celebrate our assassins and condone distant killing by remote control.

He asks if Britain can convert its ‘fighting force’ into a ‘force for nonlethal defence and law enforcement’

This would keep the command structure; the recruitment; the excellent training in so many artisan and technical skills; the great engineering ingenuity; the communications excellence; the medical expertise; the awards for bravery; the camaraderie and team spirit; the career structure; the overseas bases to meet emergencies; the sporting teams and the rules of conduct.

But the role of our military services would be redefined to leave out mass destruction and combat, expanding the design and development of nonlethal defence equipment for emergency use against crazed violence, criminal acts and despotic rulers.

Let’s refine prevention nets, vehicle cripplers, darting, tasers, anaesthetic gases and, of course, digital intelligence to predict future incidents and prevent them.

The European Working Group on Nonlethal Weapons (EWG-NLW) has members from many countries, drawn from NATO and the naval, scientific, technical, policing and defence research sectors

Its mission statement follows:

 Could it go a step further and work towards the use of these technologies to halt armed conflict and enter mediation, followed by long-term economic and cultural peacebuilding?

And, as George MacPherson urges (paywall): “redirect our spending towards, for example, disaster relief; housing and services; renewable energy; rapid response to pandemics; the United Nations and international law and order; and environmental conservation.






‘Special relationship’ led to cycle of revenge and counter-revenge

March 22, 2019


Documents newly released and placed in the National Archives in Kew, show the prime minister was deeply troubled by UC President Reagan’s request to allow the US to use RAF bases to launch a raid on Libya.

The Times reports that the US president wanted to respond to an attack on a nightclub used by US servicemen, writing: “Because the evidence we have on direct Libyan involvement in the Berlin bombing is so convincing, and our information on their future plans is so threatening, I have reluctantly taken the decision to use US forces to exact a response.”

Margaret Thatcher outlined her concerns in a series of letters:

“Dear Ron . . . as you know my instinct is always to stand beside the United States, but what you say in your message causes me very considerable anxiety. My worry is that this risks getting us into a cycle of revenge and counter-revenge in which many more innocent lives will be lost . . . “.

“Given all we know of Gaddafi’s nature, a military attack on Libya seems all too likely to lead him to step up terrorist attacks against civilian targets, resulting in the death of more innocent victims — some of them yours and some of them mine . . .”

Referring to the conflict in Northern Ireland, she wrote: “I have to live with the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic across which terrorists come daily. We have lost 2,500 of our people in the last ten years, but we have never crossed that border to exact revenge.”

Reagan wrote:

“You should not underestimate the profound effect on the American people if our actions to put a halt to these crimes continue to receive only lukewarm support, or no support at all, from our closest allies whom we have committed ourselves to defend.”

She responded: “You can count on our unqualified support for action directed against specific Libyan targets demonstrably involved in the conduct and support of terrorist activities.”

Tragically, the so-called ‘Iron Lady’ gave way

Days before ordering airstrikes against Libya, which led to the deaths of more than 70 people in April 1986, she decided to allow the US to use RAF bases to launch a raid on Colonel Gaddafi’s regime. US F-111 jets launched raids on Tripoli and Benghazi from RAF bases in Suffolk and Oxfordshire.

*Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie in 1988 and a Libyan national, was convicted of the atrocity in 2001.

FT journalist Jim Pickard, though a persistent critic of Jeremy Corbyn, has pointed out that Corbyn has linked terror attacks to foreign wars and, since becoming Labour leader has apologised for the joint US-UK action on behalf of his party. He has opposed most western military interventions of modern times, including action in Afghanistan and Syria.


*This sentence corrected in April thanks to a vigilant Wimbledon reader.







Is XR aware of the impact of the world’s military industry on climate change?

February 23, 2019


A video comment by Bruce Kent about military production increasing climate change prompted the writer to search archives and online sources – finding that preparation for war is as harmful to the environment as war itself.

Earlier references on this site to the important but hampered work of former naval officer Louise Say may be seen here.  She spent four years investigating environmental security, deflected to a considerable extent by an information lock-down in this country.

As she pointed out “During both time of conflict and in peacetime, military operations have caused and continue to cause varying degrees of ecological destruction” (doctoral thesis, Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford.1998, now lodged with the Peace Museum). The only easily accessible reference to her time there is her rarely used Twitter page. Prophetically, over 20 years ago, Louise Say wrote:

“In the light of the increasing evidence of the environmental damage caused by military forces and the extent of environmental decline in general, it is debatable whether it will continue to be acceptable for defence policy to give environmental issues a low priority or for military forces”, a site built using the input and recommendations of hundreds of young people from all over the world, focusses on this subject, asserting that worldwide militarism is responsible for substantial greenhouse emissions (Louise quoted a figure of 10%) and waste of energy. It continues, “How much harm is done to our natural environment can only be estimated, but there are voices that regard militarism as the largest polluter on the planet”.

One example quoted is that of depleted uranium (DU) penetrators manufactured in Colonie, NY state, from 1958-1984 and waste DU from the manufacturing process incinerated in the plant’s furnace, which led to prolonged releases of DU aerosols. According to the Met Office (2016) the gases used as propellants in spray cans were damaging to the ozone layer and, under the Montreal Protocol, these have been replaced by non-ozone depleting substitutes. However, these gas replacements are greenhouse gases and do add to the global warming problem.

The Economic Times reports fears that the US High Frequency Active Auroral Research Programme (HAARP), which heats the upper atmosphere with a focussed and steerable electromagnetic beam, might have contributed to global warming (Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave). Many other charges are dismissed as conspiracy theory in an article in the Scientific American.

The U.S. military is the single greatest institutional contributor to the growing natural disasters intensified by global climate change

So writes H. Patricia Hynes, a former professor of environmental health at the Boston University School of Public Health, who now directs the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice. She forthrightly states “Eco-socialism or barbarism: there is no third way”. She wrote in detail about the ‘military assault on the global climate’ in 2015, focussing on the exclusion of the environmental impact of the Pentagon’s global operations which makes U.S. carbon dioxide emissions appear far less than they in fact are. 

Physicist Dr Philip Webber focusses on the longer-term effects of a nuclear war, in particular, disruption to the global climate, the ozone layer, ecosystems and food supplies and says: “It has to be regarded a shocking indictment of our ‘civilisation’ that current stockpiles of nuclear weapons are sufficient to cause such a global catastrophe”. 

One paragraph:

“Exploding nuclear warheads over ‘combustible targets’ such as cities and factories would lead to widespread, intense fires that would inject massive amounts of smoke into the atmosphere leading to the formation of extensive high-altitude smoke clouds. These would cause cooling of the climate in a similar fashion to that observed after very large volcanic eruptions (for example, Krakatoa in 1883), but on a rather larger scale, threatening agriculture and hence food supplies across the world. Other effects included major damage to the ozone layer – which protects humans and ecosystems from damaging ultra-violet rays from the Sun – and the long-lived effects of radioactivity”. The fully referenced report may be read here. 

In the words of Patricia Hynes: “To sum up, it seems neither equitable, nor just or fair for the world’s militaries to consume fuel and energy without scrutiny, to discharge tremendous amounts of greenhouse and highly toxic emissions without regulation, to divert financial resources needed for climate mitigation as well as adaption and to continue unchecked on a path toward catastrophic climate change”.





Will North and South Korea build their own path to peace?

September 19, 2018

Today’s news that Kim Jong-un has agreed to shut down one of North Korea’s main missile testing and launch sites and the two Korean leaders “agreed on a way to achieve denuclearisation” is the third step towards reconciliation and peace taken by President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Read [FULL TEXT] Panmunjeon Declaration

In April the Korea Times reported that the leaders had signed the “Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” in which they made it clear there would be no more war on the peninsula and that a new era of peace has begun (read on here)..

CNN reported New US sanctions against North Korea on September 13th. They were aimed at two Chinese information technology companies, which are North Korean-controlled, according to the US Treasury Department, which alleged that the Russia-based company Volasys Silver Star and China-based China Silver Star had been violating US sanctions.

Despite this and other tensions, on September 12th, the Straits Times reported that North and South Korea will open a joint liaison office at the site of the Kaesong industrial complex, where for about a decade, South Korean companies ran production lines staffed by North Korean workers at the industrial park. A South Korean delegation discussed this in June with North Korean officials at the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

Seoul said the office will become operational –  working to improve cross-border communications and exchanges – immediately after the opening ceremony on Friday, September 14th. Ri Son Gwon, the head of North Korea’s delegation said, “The two sides are now able to take a large step toward peace, prosperity and unification of the Korean peninsula by quickly and frankly discussing issues arising from inter-Korean relations”.

The office is a significant move in thawing relations between the two countries, and follows a meeting this month between the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and a South Korean presidential envoy and Mr Trump’s warm reaction to a personal letter from Mr Kim offering a second summit with the US.

The two Koreas previously communicated by fax and special telephone lines, which were often severed when their relations took a turn for the worse. Seoul’s patient and persistent unification ministry said the office would become a “round-the-clock consultation and communication channel” for advancing inter-Korean relations, improving ties between the US and the North, and easing military tensions.

If North and South Korea succeed in building their path to peace they could encourage other fractured regions to do so.

Will the Indian sub-continent also begin to act in its people’s best interests?





Glimpses of Kofi Annan’s work for the United Nations and African agriculture

August 20, 2018


Amongst the tributes to Ghanaian-born Kofi Annan is one from Alec Russell, the comment and analysis editor of the Financial Times

Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general (1997 to 2006), was at the helm of the UN during the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US, and the subsequent invasion of Iraq by a US-led coalition, which came despite his diplomatic efforts to stave off conflict. His opposition to that war led to a rupture with Washington.

Hella Pick in the Guardian adds that though Annan was by nature a conciliator, a “diplomat’s diplomat”, he also had the courage of his convictions and stuck to his guns even when powerful UN members urged retreat.

“A notable example was his intervention in Baghdad in 1998 to defuse a crisis over UN arms inspections in Iraq, where he went ahead with negotiations, against strong pressure from Washington to stay away; and he spoke out against the US invasion of 2003. Similarly, he defied Britain and the US when he negotiated with Libya to end a security council stalemate over the Lockerbie bombing”.

Alec Russell adds that Kofi Annan was criticised by some when, as head of UN peacekeeping operations in 1994, he was accused of ignoring warnings from his own mission about the impending genocide in Rwanda in which up to 1m people were killed in a matter of months.

He was also in charge of the UN during the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, a humanitarian programme to relieve the impact of sanctions on ordinary Iraqis that ended in widespread abuse and corruption.

In retirement, he served as a UN special envoy for Syria and sought to intervene in Myanmar where the government has been accused of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. 

Less well known were his efforts to improve the efficiency of agriculture in Africa

The Kofi Annan Foundation was set up in 2007 to work for a fairer and more peaceful world. One of its projects furthered his dream, which was, Russell added, to transform the lot of Africa’s smallholders so that the world’s poorest continent could feed itself:

“No farmer went unquizzed as we toured smallholdings on the rust-red earth at a blistering pace”.

Seeing agriculture as crucial to lifting tens of millions out of poverty and contributing to wider development goals, he told the FT in 2011. While much of the continent is amazingly fertile, agriculture has long been hobbled by poor infrastructure and transport, meaning that many countries cannot feed their populations, let alone export. The only way Africa could reduce hunger, he concluded, was by increasing food production:

“Africa imports $75bn worth of food each year. For a continent with all the land we have, it’s just intolerable.” Annan urged the US and Europe to remove farm subsidies to help African farmers compete on a level playing field. More detail in a report from a 2017 Malawian newspaper here.

Annan also spearheaded the fight against the HIV/Aids epidemic, which was particularly severe in his own continent and he championed the Millennium Development Goals designed to prod governments into reaching minimum standards of health, education and gender equality.

In 2000, a report from an independent commission chaired by Ingvar Carlsson found the UN culpable of weak management and oversight during his time in charge – a time when it was overstretched due to America’s failure to pay its dues. But as the late John Ferguson said in his highly recommended book, Not Them But Us: In Praise of The United Nations:

ferguson 2 not them but us cover (2)“People tend to talk about the UN as `them’. But the UN is not `them’; it is `us’. The UN has no existence apart from the nations which compose it. The Secretary-General and his staff are there to fulfil the decisions of the nations, no less and no more.

“U Thant, the first Asian to hold that office, wrote in his memoirs: `There is a widespread illusion that the Secretary-General is comparable to the head of a government. He is often criticized for failure to take an action – when over 130 sovereign member states collectively fail to act.

“The plain fact is that the United Nations and the Secretary-General have none of the attributes of sovereignty and no independent power.’ So if you hear anyone saying `The UN has failed,’ say to them, `I’m glad you admit your failure. Now what are you going to do about it?” We are the UN; its failures are our failures and its successes are our successes . . . “






Consensus: conflicts in South Asia will only be resolved by political means

August 13, 2018


In his election manifesto Pakistan’s prime minister in waiting, Imran Khan, said that his party, Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), will move ahead ‘substantively’ on the bilateral strategic dialogue with India.

He recognises that for lasting peace within the region, especially with its neighbour India, conflict resolution and the security route to cooperation is the most viable. PTI will work on a blueprint towards resolving the Kashmir issue within the parameters of UN Security Council resolutions.

All aspects of the strategic nuclear deterrence will be addressed so as to prevent a spiralling nuclear arms race in the region.

PTI will push for the principle of non-discrimination in all arms control and disarmament measures, including global nuclear disarmament.

Early in July U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a surprise visit to Afghanistan, promised support for President Ashraf Ghani’s bid to start peace talks with the Taliban

He said that the United States would be willing to join the talks. However a week later Reuters reported that the Taliban have rejected talks which would include the government of President Ashraf Ghani, which they see as illegitimate and instead insisted they would only talk with the United States.

The US has refused to talk to the Taliban ever since the Afghan government failed to hand over al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The un-named author of FT View, two weeks later, said that it is time to bring the Taliban ‘inside the tent’

S/he comments that, initially, the US stance stemmed from hubris — an enduring and fateful characteristic of nearly two centuries of Afghan expeditions. They expected to defeat the Taliban swiftly and completely and though the US military has abandoned the hope of a swift end to the war, it clings on to its belief that victory is possible, if only more resources were made available.

The first attempt after 9/11 to gather competing Afghan groups to sit down and talk in Bonn in 2001 led to a reasonable outline for a new Afghan state. The Taliban, however, were not invited to the meeting in Bonn, nor to the jirgas or plebiscites, held afterwards in Afghanistan to legitimise the agreements made there. FT View writes that the Taliban have been exacting revenge for their exclusion ever since.

Today, FT View states, the Taliban control or contest more than 40% of the country and civilian fatalities in 2018 have hit a record high, adding, “However hard it will be, it is time to bring them inside the tent”.

It adds that most Afghans have welcomed the NATO forces because of their state’s weakness and the security force’s frailties. Yet they have always understood that the insurgency, here as elsewhere, would only be resolved by political not military means.

The FT reflects that Gen Nicholson, who has spent much of the past 10 years building relationships with Afghans of all factions, is widely respected in that country. Is it too much to hope that he could work with a team including Imran Khan?

Afghanistan’s Ambassador Shaida Mohammad Abdali yesterday welcomed Mr Khan’s victory statement: “We hope that the positive speeches that Imran Khan gave on his victory day will be realised by practical steps that we will also see in the future”.